Artist's Statement

My parents survived the Holocaust. As a result of their experience, I was brought up in an extremely protective climate. I was discouraged from having contact with anyone outside of my family circle. In reaction, I felt a great need to learn about people outside of my realm. This seemed to be the key to broadening my perspective. I began my career as a professional fine artist in Los Angeles accepting portrait commissions.

Over the years of developing my skills, I learned to incorporate my perceptions and observations about people into my painting, exploring the connection between my subject’s psychology and my own. This synergy formed the foundation for my work.

As a result I think of myself as a psychological journalist or documentary artist as I paint my portraits. I carefully construct each painting to make statements about specific subjects. The body of these works forms a network of statements to present a wider perspective about humanity. I involve my subjects in numerous ways with the deliberate aim of learning about them as a journalist might.  The approach I use encourages my subjects to explore and present themselves.

I have been influenced by great artists throughout history, particularly the old masters. Some of my reviews observed this influence. Los Angeles-based art critic Peter Clothier, in Art In America said,

“. viewing [Shap's work] yields social and psychological insights. A fine artist with a fine sense of history, Shap is also unafraid to pay tribute - often with subtle humor - to the masters of the portrait tradition; Time magazine critic Robert Hughes, for example, makes a fine, sybaritic Franz Hals.”

William Wilson (Senior art critic, Los Angeles Times) said in a review,

“Sylvia Shap takes a singular tack in distancing from the subject. One bare-chested young man smiles over a tattoo-encrusted shoulder. Shap doesn't blink. She is as cool as Holbein.”

My work synthesizes the historical traditions of portraiture with a most contemporary viewpoint. I am interested in more than my subject’s appearance. I seek to reveal their inner being, the personality within.

I see my work as a time capsule for future generations. I sincerely hope to provide insight into human nature and to enhance our perception of ourselves as individuals and as a species.

Site design Charles Lapidus

Copyright © 2006- Sylvia Shap All Rights Reserved